Colour blindness affects one in 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (0.5%) with an estimated 300 million colour blind people globally. This means whenever you’re sharing or giving a presentation, there’s a good chance someone in your audience is affected by this condition.
Making your designs accessible for colour blind audiences doesn’t mean eliminating colour altogether as most colour blind people can view colours; their eyes and brain just interpret specific colours and combinations differently from those without colour blindness.
While colour blindness is primarily an inherited condition, it can also result from cataracts, damage or trauma to the eye, and various diseases such as Parkinson’s, Kallman’s Syndrome, and diabetes. Let’s take a look at the different types of color blindness:
- Red/Green Colour Blindness
A vast majority of those with colour blindness suffer from red/green colour blindness, which can be broke down into two categories. The first is protanopia (red weakness) where those affected are unable to perceive red light. The second is deuteranopia or deuteranomaly (green weakness). Here, people are either insensitive to green light (deuteranomaly) or unable to perceive green light (deuteranopia). Red/green colour blindness is inherited, affecting males more than females as the genes responsible for this condition are in the X chromosome.
- Blue/Yellow Colour Blindness
This form of colour blindness – also known as Tritanopia – means sufferers struggle to distinguish between blue and yellow colours. It is far less common than the previous type of colour blindness, but affects men and women equally as tritanopia isn’t linked to the X chromosome.
- Complete Colour Blindness
People who suffer from complete colour blindness (monochromacy) cannot distinguish between any colours at all. Monochromacy is extremely rare, occurring in 1 in 33,000 people.
Colour Conscious Data Visualisation
While colour is an important element is most designs, it’s particularly useful in data visualisation. Colour can be used to highlight information, guide audiences eyes, illustrate relationships between data types, and even evoke emotional responses through colour psychology. People’s perception of colours isn’t just affected by colour blindness – cultural connotations also play a critical role in how audiences may receive and interpret your colour choices.
When designing infographics in PowerPoint, using a design resource like Piktochart can make things much simpler. This program can easily convert text and data into something more compelling with built-in templates and customisation options to ensure your data visualisation is visually engaging while remaining accessible to those with colour blindness.
Tips For Designing Colour Blind Friendly Palettes
- Establish your colour scheme first
Making your design colour blind friendly doesn’t mean removing all colour or visual flair from your graphics, charts, and slides. If you plan ahead and remain conscious of your colour choices, you can build a colour palette that will compliment your design without compromising on legibility or accessibility. To see if your design passes the test, try Coblis – a free color blind simulator that will help you understand how your images will appear to those with colour blindness.
- Avoid the following colour combinations
- Red and Green
- Green and Brown
- Green and Blue
- Blue and Grey
- Blue and Purple
- Green and Grey
- Green and Black
If you’re forced to use any of these combinations due to branding or design parameters, adjusting the shades of those colours can help make things more legible as most colour blind people can see contrast. Speaking of which…
- Use high contrast
Darkening and lightening colours to make the contrast more prominent can be very helpful for those suffering from colour blindness. Altering the different hues, shades, brightness levels, and saturation in your design will ensure legibility, regardless of your colour choices.
- Try patterns and textures
Colour isn’t the only design element that helps highlight information. Through varying patterns and textures, you can help colour blind audience members easily distinguish different images and datasets from one another.
- Use symbol and icons
Much like patterns and textures, symbols don’t rely on colour to be differentiate themselves. Using symbols, icons, even emojis can add some personality while remaining conscious of any colour blind audiences.
- Consider monochromatic designs
Since those with colour blindness struggle to distinguish between differing shades of colour, designing monochromatic charts and graphics can be an easy workaround. By reducing your colour choices, you’re less likely to incorporate problematic colours (or colour combinations).
- Keep it simple
We will always encourage designers to keep things simple, focusing on clean and clear designs that are easy to interpret or read. By keeping design flair to a minimum, audience members are more likely to understand your content and the message you’re trying to convey – regardless of whether they suffer from colour blindness or not.
Optimising your designs for those affected by colour blindness shouldn’t mean compromising on design choices. The key thing is making your designs accessible and inclusive. Be conscious of how your colour choices may affect audiences and, when in doubt, keep things as simple as possible so your work is easy to read and interpret. It’s better having a basic design that everyone understands rather than an extravagant design that can only be enjoyed by some.